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Cultivating patience


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This site is no longer being updated so head over to Seamwork to get all the latest patterns, tutorials, video classes, and more.

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This fall, I ran my first marathon.

Here is a picture of me looking about half as nervous as I felt. I was pretty much terrified. Even after training for months, this thing seemed impossible.

And I won’t tell you it was easy. I thought my legs were going to fall off. I swore up and down I’d never do such a meshugeneh thing again. Afterwards, I was so emotional that I broke down in tears and had no idea why.

Within a couple weeks, I was thinking about a half marathon and wondering how I could improve my training to do a full one again. In time.

I know, you’re wondering what this has to do with sewing, right? I’ll get to that.

Training takes patience

First, there is the short term patience, when you are in the act of training.

Training for a marathon usually involves one long run per week, and each week you increase your mileage until you can survive running about 20 miles.

If you’re a relatively slow or inexperienced runner (like me), that means you have to learn to be out running for almost 4 hours. Any runner will tell you that the hardest part of this is not dealing with what’s happening with your legs and feet, it’s dealing with what is happening between your ears. You have to learn new ways to deal with things like pain and boredom, and you have to learn to shut down the voice that says “this is not worth it.”

Haven’t we all had those moments where we want to throw away our project in anger, either because it failed or because it seems too hard? Where we say to ourselves, “why am I doing this when I can go to the mall and buy something ready made for less money?”

Yes, there is an easier way. But we keep trying because it is rewarding. It’s rewarding to learn, and it’s rewarding to get better at it. Personally, I think that’s the meaning of life: finding joy in the hard work.

Getting better takes patience

Unlike many other sports, getting good at running is excruciatingly slow. Someone who has been running 5 days a week for two or three years (that’s me) is still pretty much a novice (yep, definitely). Your body improves with each mile you log, but results are so slow after the first year or so that it can be hard to see.

The same is true for sewing. You see vast improvements when you first start, as you grasp the basics and learn to work the machine. After that, it is a matter of patience, practice, and pushing yourself to develop. You just have to log the hours, pure and simple.

There’s a big upside to this, which is that you never stop learning and improving. To me, this is hugely motivating. You can always take it a little farther and get a little better.

Overcoming setbacks takes patience

I was really excited about running some half marathons this year. Piece of cake, thought I. I was already running up to 10 miles easily, so training would be a breeze.

Then we went to Thailand, then I got sick, then I tried to jump right back in the deep end, then I hurt my leg, then I was out of commission for a month.

Every runner faces injuries. When this happens, you have to practice a new kind of discipline. This isn’t the discipline of working your hardest. Its the discipline of taking care of yourself, recognizing your limits, and having the patience to work your way back up very, very slowly.

Setbacks happen. It’s just how it is. You can accept that simple fact and treat yourself with patience and kindness, or you can fight against it and give up.

I guess running is just like any other creative act: if it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing. What do you think?

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 64


You got me at “the meaning of life: finding joy in the hard work.”… I think I totally identify with this. I think if there is no hard work involved then there is no point in doing it (whatever that might be) And yes sewing is so rewarding and relaxing…


I am with you!
I take ballet class during a long time, as an amateur. Six month ago, I jump into it again after a long stop (8 years: 2 baby and breastfeeding). And I need a lot of patience to do it, trust me! hopefully I am more patient now at 42 than at 25.
And what are the more difficult part? Not been suple again (I am not, I need exercice and be very patient), not build muscles again… but been quiet in my mind, let all the stress and silly, parasit thoughts going away. Surprising, no?!
As sewing, drawing or any other creative process: if it where easy… I would probably never have pursue and never have start again.


Yes, that’s exactly it! I think that when you do something really challenging, it takes you out of your regular modes of thinking and you start to actually recognize the parasitic thoughts (like you say).

There have been times while running that felt like, with every footfall, one side of my brain was saying “stop. stop. stop.” and the other “go. go. go.”


Congratulations! I did two marathons and a couple of triathlons some years ago. They are absolutely the best examples and training ground to do anything else you want to do in life. If you can get through that – you can do anything! Thank you for sharing this with us – it inspires me to continue to learn garment sewing.

sewing elve

That is absolutely awesome! I am not a novice at running anymore but I am running my first marathon in 2 years on the 23 feb and I am completely freaked out. I always say I have nothing to prove to anybody but myself. I am so proud of you. Well done!


Congrats on the marathon!! Running and sewing are my two longest standing hobbies and this was such an interesting read! Had never drawn those parallels before but you are right- patience and perseverance are totally key for both! :o)


That’s awesome! And I agree running aligns with many difficult things and it all starts in the head. I think for me both running and sewing is about me challenging myself (run my own race and sew at my own pace). Thank you for sharing and keep up all the goodness!


This arrived in my reader at a great time! I am making a (what I thought would be) fairly simple knit blouse. Last night I broke three needles (I think that was a walking foot issue), got frustrated beyond belief ripping out the same seam mulitple times, stared at twist overlay instructions for an hour trying to figure them out before realizing I missed marking a dot, and still have some sort of neckline facing issue that I have no idea how to fix. Over dinner I asked my husband why I picked up a hobby that frustrates me to the point of swearing like a sailor – my real job doesn’t even do that! But this morning I looked at it with fresh eyes and pinned it together on my dress form. I can’t wait to finish it – it will be cute and I learned more through the process which gives a real sense of accomplishment.


I have so been there. The cursing, the tearing, the boiling-over frustration… and then in the morning everything seems to be magically back in perspective!


I’ve been teaching myself through trial and error to alter or redesign patterns. My last few sewing sessions have not gone well, especially considering I’m trying to finish my current project (a sun dress) to take on vacation in two weeks. I get frustrated with my projects and often don’t complete them because I doubt myself and I can’t sew as well as I’d like. This post was just what I needed to keep working on my dress, because even if I don’t finish it in time, I will still have learned something for next time. Thanks, Sarai.


That is an amazing parallel! When you said that the hardest part is dealing with boredom, I think that’s somewhat true about sewing (from this novice’s perspective). There are the exciting parts of sewing where a little bit of work makes a huge difference in your garment (adding piping! sewing a bodice to a skirt! putting in a collar!). Then sometimes there are long stretches of monotony (cutting & marking a pattern, hemming a circle skirt, finishing the inside seams with no serger).

Now that I type it, the hardest, most monotonous parts for me are the beginning and the end of a project. However, those are easily the most important parts for having a finished garment! I suppose it’s because the middle part is exciting, but I have to learn to appreciate the boring parts to achieve my goal. :)


Yes, and for both of those cases of boredom, music is my solution!


Thank you for being honest about the running. I have tried the 10 week Zest programme and I hated most of it, except for the hot showers after each run. I couldn’t understand how people talked about ‘the zone’, where you blank out and just enjoy the run. I’m glad to know that expecting me to experience this only 7 weeks into running was maybe a bit premature !
And as for sewing – the thing that helped me most with my frustration was learning to baste first, sew second. I’m not great at sewing, I am teaching my self, but the first curved, lined neckline I did took me hours – and the effort it took means it’s even more beautiful in my eyes. If I’d just gone ahead and sewn everything and expected it to fall into place, I would have ended up with a ripped piece of material. I repeat to myself – “I’m not just sewing, I’m also learning”.


I think it really takes a while to get your endurance and lungs in shape, at which point it becomes much more relaxing. For me, my breath has a lot to do with how relaxed I feel. So being able to breathe slowly and regularly really helped me enjoy running more. It just takes a while to get there.


Great post, and I so agree. I don’t run much, but I can say that playing/singing music is exactly the same hard slog. You write about music helping, but music in itself is a great challenge. The further you get into any craft/art, you are learning just as well or better, just as much as ever in the beginning, but the rewards are in millimeters – except for a breakthrough every now and then, which makes the addition continue. The goals you set are always higher and further, so you can never slack off if you want to get anywhere.
Making up for time and effort lost, like that ballet after so many years, yes, I know how that is too. :-)
Much joy to everyone out of the perserverance!


I think that you are a braver woman than I am, because I have no desire to run a marathon EVER. But then, I’ve been twisting ankles every single time I run since I was 7. Those Presidential Fitness tests they used to make us take in gym class where we had to run a mile were torture. So I’ll stick to walking, thankyouverymuch! :)

But what does help me with sewing is sometimes just taking a break and coming back to it when I’m less frustrated and more mentally fresh.


Congrats on your terrific achievement! And thank you so much for posting this – it’s the one thing that keeps holding me back in my sewing – I lack patience with myself. As a former extreme type-A and extreme perfectionist, I worry that I’ll slide back into old routines of beating myself up emotionally and mentally for “failing” at something. And I say former as my nervous breakdown taught me so many lessons – frankly, it was the best thing that happened to me! *lol* Now if I can work up the willpower and patience, I believe that I can achieve what I want with my sewing.

Thank you! :)


Wow, thank you for this. JUST last night, I finished (so I thought) a simple dress from a simple pattern that I did not make a muslin for. I thought I could do it all in one day and I breezed right through all the steps, slipped it on… and it was terrible. The waist was too low, the hem was too low, the top was huge while the skirt was too tight. Just terrible. I literally did ball it up and throw it in a pile in the closet out of frustration. I’ve been in a cruddy mood all morning because of it.

I’m book-marking this post to come back to. I always enjoy your writings, but this one really resonated with me. Enough so that I think I’ll take some pictures of this dress failure and see if I can salvage something from it to make into a blog post of my own.

Cheers and Happy Monday!


Congratulations on the marathon! Your post is ever so timely & inspirational. I’m trying to gear myself up to do the C25K program (just to get in shape) & I’m realizing that I’ve got to get in shape before I can even start to get in shape! I’m taking brisk walks with the dog in the morning & my legs hurt just doing that. I know it’ll be a slow process & I’m stuggling with not getting demoralized. So thank you. You’ve lifted me up & motivated me to keep at it.


One thing I’ve learned is not to be afraid to listen to your body and take it slooooow. Of course, I seem to learn this lesson afresh with each injury. :)


Patience is so important and so difficult. I particularly get the part about work at running for 2-3 years and still being a beginning. I’ve been practicing yoga for 14 years and there are days when I feel like a complete beginner. I broke my foot several years ago which meant my yoga practice was limited to poses in chair or on floor. Funny thing is that by going back to the most basic of basics my yoga practice improved significantly. So you may find that this time off and injury have helped you in some unexpected way with your running practice.

Although I’ve been sewing for close to 40 years I find that I consistently learn new things from you and your readers or learn that stuff I’ve slowly discovered on my sewing path can be improved even more by a slight tweak here or there. Thanks for fostering a sewing community. I would have loved having this community in my 20s when I didn’t really know other people who enjoyed sewing too.


Actually, you are totally right. I’ve been doing other forms of exercise while on break from running, and really enjoying it, plus my upper body is getting stronger. Sometimes a curve ball is just what you need to progress or try something new, you are right!



That was a lovely post.


I like running and sewing too. There are similarities as you pointed out. I would add that for both activities, you are the boss and the worker. You choose your goal, make the decisions to reach it, and work (run/sew). Sometimes, I wish I liked team sports. Sewing is a lonely activity, as well as running. But then, it’s part of one’s personality I guess. (I hope it makes sense!)


Yes, absolutely. I am a lone wolf type also. I like the alone time and the chance to think and just be quiet. And I really like coming up with my own goals and pushing myself that way.


You are so in the zone in that photo… I’m dying to know what music was on your headphones! Oh, and clearly you are a rock star. Just sayin’.


I think I was listening to Patti Smith. So I had Patti power.


perfect! you can’t go wrong with some Patti power :)


I’m not much of a runner, but I’m starting archery this semester and it’s simultaneously thrilling and bewildering to hear about archers shooting thousands of arrows and still being “beginners”, so your thoughts on this really resonated with me. Especially: “You just have to log the hours, pure and simple. There’s a big upside to this, which is that you never stop learning and improving. To me, this is hugely motivating.” It really is! …Though, admittedly, it’s easy for me to forget that sewing is about skilled labour and craft as much as creativity or drafting, and that “logging the hours” is also part of the process of learning. :P

Also, I hope your rest/recuperation is going well, and that you’ll be ready to train again when it’s time to do so. :)


Thanks for the good thought, Meraj. I’m actually almost fully recovered and starting to do short slow runs again, which is so nice.


Sarai, that is soooo great. what a great accomplishment. and it is no surprise that anyone who has completed a marathon and swears that she will NEVER do it again, is planning her next one even before the chafing has gone away and the nipples have stopped bleeding. So happy for you…Like they say
Marathon: Pain is temporary Pride is forever.

Rejoice in the fact that you form less than a percent of the world’s population that can pull off this feat. Our bodies were not designed to run so much.

I felt the exact same way after my first – can’t do full marathons now, but have promised myself 6 half-marathons every year…..

Linda Kennedy

First of all well done you for having the tenacity to train and run the marathon. I remember supporting my friend when she ran her first London Marathon. She too was drained of energy and full of emotion at the end. We managed to get her to Westminster Bridge to catch her coach home only to find it had gone without us! How that girl got the energy to get to Victoria Station I’ll never know but she did AND she went on to run four more marathons!

Secondly I appreciate the analogy with sewing. Sometimes I look pattern instructions and I almost give up before I start, they look so complicated. But when you take it slowly and knuckle down and follow the pattern it does eventually work out. And because you have physically done it you seem to remember more for next time.

I do a little dance when something hard works out – but that’s between us!!

Linda xx

Linda Kennedy

Maybe I should just add that the four more marathons were not run straight away!


Ha, the same happened to me after my first 10k since they’d rerouted all the buses for it. We had to walk miles to get home. Of course, that was only 10k!


Thank you. I needed this. I just started to sew sleeves into my garments, and I tells ya, I need all the patience I can get. But you are right. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing!


Congrats on doing a marathon! You have an amazing amount of patience! Great life lessons here!

Miss Crayola Creepy

Thanks for the pep talk, Sarai! Whenever I get frustrated I need to remind myself that if sewing was easy anyone could do it! It’s easy to be too hard on myself :)


I love your blog because… I do not sew clothes (I’ll get to the point, keep reading). I sew homegoods, which I find to be useful and far less insulting to my figure :P I would LOVE to sew clothes, but I get so frustrated when they don’t turn out like I wanted… so for now (I have 3 little kids and counting, fast), I have tabled that ambition until I can tackle it with a little more patience in a few years.

Thus, I find your blog to be both useful (tutorials), and very inspirational, like today’s post:

“Every runner faces injuries. When this happens, you have to practice a new kind of discipline. This isn’t the discipline of working your hardest. Its the discipline of taking care of yourself, recognizing your limits, and having the patience to work your way back up very, very slowly.”

This is also so true with my type-A tendency to expect too much from my own time: with kids, sewing, working from home, school and church activities, etc! We live in Boston, and after being stuck in my house with children for the past 4 days, I am losing it!! It is good to remember to practice the discipline of just accepting that things are not necessarily going to go the way you want them to :)


Congratulations on running your first marathon! Once all the pain and soreness have faded, and the memory of those long slogging weekend runs becomes rosy colored you’ll find marathons become addictive.

Heal Quickly!


So funny, because lately I have been missing those really long runs. I felt like I got to see so much of the city and nature. I do miss that. But not the pain.

Pam Jones

I love that you ran a marathon and I love that it wasn’t long before you thought about what else you would run. The half is a GREAT race, please do it. From one runner/sewist to another


I’ve done a couple halves now, and I think it’s an awesome distance! I plan to do one or two of them this year. It’s so much more manageable training-wise, but still challenging and long.


Congratulations on your sewing and running successes. I think I was at my fittest sewing and running wise when I was around 30. Life then took its course and very little sewing and running took place for the next 30 years. I am now 61 and in training for my first marathon – and, I am working really hard to get my sewing and fitting skills back up to where they once were, and hopefully, better still. I will never give up! As long as there is life there is always something to learn and improve on.


That is just awesome, Lene. Congratulations.


A great post. I am a marathon runner as well as a sewer and I totally agree with the parallels you describe. I also often find myself out on my long runs thinking about sewing. I’ll be planning construction in my head, or mulling over a problem that I might recently have had with sewing something.Amazing how the kilometers fly by when the mind is thinking of things other than the legs!!!

Congrats on your first Marathon by the way!


i love this article!!!!! as a runner and a quilter, i def. have noticed the parallels. i have an easier time pushing myself to run than i do on my new goal of learning to sew garmets. this gives me the encouragement to keep going. thank you!!


Sewing and running are activities I was strongly discouraged from as a child. With running, because I wasn’t fast; with sewing, because it wasn’t academic or a politically correct thing for a girl to do.

I wonder how many have a similar story?!

Now I’ve kept both hobbies going some 10 years and they keep me happy and sane!

But there is a downside to running: after you reach your physical peak, there’s an inevitable decline as the body ages and slows down… Not so with sewing though where I can look forward to decades of improvement (I hope!!)


True, but from what I’ve read, one of the interesting things about running is that many people reach their peak much later in life compared to other sports (unless you have inborn talent, I assume). Older runners have more experience.

But I also think the inevitable decline is an interesting process… learning to live with new limits and all that.

Sew Little Time

great post – congratulations on your marathon success! i have done 10ks and can’t imagine doing anything that long!

very timely post for me too – i’ve been working on my first trousers – a pair of junipers, and i traced the pattern in my usual size, added some length to the c rotch, cut out a muslin with extra seam allowances and thread traced it. only to find it’s miles too small! i threw it in the corner in disgust, but tonight i’ll get it out and see if it is salvageable (more crotch length is needed and that might fix the other issues) or if i need to start again with the next size up!


Way to go!! That’s awesome. Completing a marathon is such a profound experience. I ran my first one last year, too, and I wanted to cry and laugh and yell and jump up and down (but was not physically able to… :) The discipline it takes to complete a goal like that manifests itself in so many other parts of life. I know I’m becoming more focused in my painting and sewing practices because of it. It’s patience and practice and sometimes mind-numbing hard work, but, in the end, it’s good stuff! Thank you for sharing, and keep it up! :)


This was great to read as I’m struggling to come back from an injury, too. (13.1 is the best!!) I agree 100% about running and sewing! One valuable lesson for me was that there are occasional wadders in both – it’s lacing up your sneakers and getting back out there the next day that makes all the difference.


I love this post! I saw you in the marathon around the 11 mile point at the turnaround, you looked like you were still feeling good so you fooled me! It was my first marathon too, and despite the beating sun and the ridiculous St. John’s bridge (b-r-u-t-a-l) I came away thinking… marathon’s are no joke! and I totally want to do another one! haha. I’ve been experiencing frustration with sewing, so you’re right that I just need to be patient with myself! I guess Rome wasn’t built in a day and we didn’t just train for a marathon overnight, so sewing is the same way. Thanks again for the great article, very easy to relate to!


Oh my gosh Gina, I was totally fine until we hit that gorgeous-but-deadly bridge, I think!


Thanks so much for writing this post. I started running again about 9 years ago and have definitely been an on-again, off-again runner, but I’ve kept a lot of the lessons that running has taught me (hill training was especially useful, mentally, because it was so hard, physically). I’ve been thinking about that a lot as I’m about to have my first baby, but I’ve also been getting back into sewing, and experiencing the fits and starts and frustrations and occasional successes of that. This post was just what I needed to read to help me put it all back into the right perspective.


I ran my first half marathon in September of last year. I found that training for the race was challenging, yet achievable. During the race I was tired but kept a consistent pace and made my goal time. The hardest part for me was to keep running AFTER the race was over. That ultimate goal had been my burning motivation to keep going, keep running all summer. Once it was done, I slipped off the bandwagon very quickly. Now I’m trying to pick back up. I ran 3 miles the other day and it was HARD! It takes a lot of persistence and love to keep being a runner year after year. But I think ultimately it’s worth it. I just need to sign up for another race quick!
I also think running and sewing go hand in hand because who doesn’t want to look muscular and fit in the clothes they just made themselves? And it’s so much easier to fit yourself when you maintain your weight.


I cried after I finished my marathon too – something about having finally completed something I’d trained for for so long, but that’s where the similarities end – I’ve no intention of putting myself through that again! Every time I try something new and it turns out a bit squiffy I just remind myself how long it took to learn to read and write and that by comparison I’m doing just fine. It helps me not to follow through on my strong desire to throw the sewing machine!

Verte Adelie

I really admire the people dedicated enough to run a marathon, so congratulations! I’m definitely guilty of giving up too easily when my sewing doesn’t work as I planned…

Speaking of comparing running with creativity, have you heard of japanese writer Haruki Murakami? He’s a prolific novelist (I especially loved ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’), and a very dedicated runner, and he wrote a short memoir called ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ where he talks about both. It’s not his best book, but it’s still a curiosity, since I don’t know if there are many books of that kind!


Yes, I’ve read lots of Murakami and really enjoyed his running book too! He talks a bit about how distance running and writing are similar in their quixotic and borderline obsessive nature, which I thought was really interesting. It made me think a lot about creative personality types.


I started running in my mid-thirties. Became totally addicted and ran 16 marathons. Loved everything about running —- but never balanced the rest of my life with the running. Quit ‘cold turkey’ seven years ago when I started caring for grandkids. Became addicted to sewing!! Now running AND sewing ……. a healthy balance. Very proud of you!

P.S. Did Portland three times —- it never got easy ;)


This so resonates with me! I’m a slow running coming back from illness and a neophyte sewer trying to pick up skills and do better. Once you get started with both it ends up being about the process of getting better not just the end results (a race or a finished garment!).
Yours in running and sewing!


Congratulations on both your patience and your marathon achievement. When you’ve sewn for a long time, I feel sewing can be seen as a calming exercise or a frustrating exercise as is training for a marathon. I choose your POV – ‘patience Grasshopper’.

Jill Pannill

Last night I was on a 3 mile jog and kept thinking, ‘this running thing is a mental game, it’s all between my ears.” Thanks for your article and reminding me that good things take time….I’m working on a Cynthia Rowley dress (Simplicity) and must remember not to rush things!


Sarai, I love this post! Congratulations on your marathon! Portland has been on my list for years and I’m hoping this fall is the year, after I have my little one. I’ve only been running for 3 years now and I have had the very same thoughts about how much it teaches you discipline and training and achieving goals and relating this back to my more recent sewing hobby. Thank you so much for sharing!

elizabeth rehmer

congrats on your first marathon!! I get the whole emotional thing–it happens… Portland was my 3rd marathon a few years ago and one I ran with a close friend. We had an amazing experience that we will share forever. We laughed and cried and collapsed together and have some fun pics to remember it all by! :) I would love to do portland again and visit some amazing fabric places there!! Can’t wait to hear about your next running venture!

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